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When the cloud falls

At the recent Dell EMC Africa Partner Summit, partners from all over Africa gathered in one place to share information, and many of those discussions focused on cloud. BRAD PULFORD,  GM for Channel & Distribution at Dell EMC South Africa, offers insight into why many customers fail with cloud.

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Becoming a cloud-first business is fantastic – and that’s putting it mildly. Companies that adopted a cloud-first business model recover 96 times faster from a disaster, spend less than half the time on security than their peers and are more than twice as effective at retaining talent than competitors. Embracing the cloud makes a lot of business sense.

This message is not lost on companies, but unfortunately wanting something and executing it successfully are two very different things. As cloud adoption accelerates, it is becoming clear that many organisations, big and small, are struggling to make the change and see real value. Why is this happening?

“Cloud is a very fluid word right now,” said Pulford. “Consumers all have different consumption needs. But because they treat cloud as a destination and not a shift in their business model, they often end up with what doesn’t work for their needs.”

What is cloud?

So companies aren’t seeing the value, because they still don’t grasp what cloud is and how to align it with their world. Let’s take the conversation back to its basics: what is cloud? According to the US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology, cloud has five essential characteristics:

  • on-demand self-service
  • broad network access
  • resource pooling
  • rapid elasticity or expansion, and
  • measured service

These can be found in three service models – software, platform and infrastructure – and four deployment models, namely private, community, public and hybrid.

This is already a mouthful, so no wonder companies are not up for the due diligence required. The IT industry isn’t helping: vendors and service providers are too likely to try and shoehorn a customer into one of their services, ignoring the nuanced needs of the business.

Forget the jargon

But fortunately, you don’t have to become a cloud fundie to make sense of this. There is a much simpler and more practical way forward, Pulford explained:

“Cloud impacts your company’s workloads, meaning the data and tasks that your business systems are running. That is where your perspective lives. The nature of a workload says a lot of the kind of cloud it is looking for. You should start by profiling the applications in your organisation.”

A common mistake companies make is they get stuck on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a viable cloud model. This is cloud’s most visible wave of change and involves letting go of underlying infrastructure, paying purely for the service. For example, using Office365 to manage email, calendar and Office functions such as spreadsheets.

But what about a SAP ERP? Such a system often involves many customisations that are unique to the business. Replicating those tweaks requires a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or even Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) approach, if the business wants more control over the nuts and bolts behind the applications. Some business applications may need to be virtualised through a hypervisor such as VMWare. Others might be better when separated into several services.

Certain workloads may work best if temporarily shifted to a hyperscale cloud environment – essentially a supercomputer on steroids – where they can be concluded faster or take advantage or special services there, like AI for business analytics. A payroll workload can go from days to minutes if the right cloud model is applied. All this can even happen inside a company on its own private cloud and hand-picked infrastructure. Something such as a flash-storage array can quadruple a system’s performance several times over.

“What are the applications at the core of your business?” Pulford asked. “Can they be modernised with cloud-native versions? Should they be virtualised? What is the best cloud can offer for those particular workloads? And what are the business benefits that you will see from the different cloud options? That is the way to approach cloud – not cloud for cloud’s sake, but cloud for the sake of your applications.”

Most cloud implementations fail because they are not considered from the business and business application perspectives. Instead, customers are dazzled with cost and performance metrics. Those are very achievable, but only if the migration is from a business-first perspective.

What does your business need? The answers lie with your applications, so start there…

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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